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Foot and Mouth

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:14 pm on 21st June 2001.

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Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 12:14 pm, 21st June 2001

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the sensitive way in which he has recognised and spoken of the range of issues. Of course I recognise how badly his constituents feel. Although I do not represent a farming constituency, when I lived in Lincolnshire some 10 years after the previous outbreak I was well aware of the remaining grief and deep feelings of mourning of those who experienced the 1967 outbreak. I am under no illusions at all about how deep the grief will have gone within his community and the many others that have been affected. I do indeed recognise those concerns.

I recognise the validity of the right hon. Gentleman's other points about the potential for bottlenecks in the cleaning-up process, the range of businesses affected and the fact that it was some time ago that the dates for the support schemes were first set. The Government will have to consider all those issues. I cannot give him any information today, but I undertake consider the points that he raised, not least his final, extremely pertinent point about domestic tourism. He will appreciate that that is part of the reason for the thrust of the announcement that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Rural Affairs will make later today. We are seeking to get the message across. I have heard some anecdotal evidence of how, in various areas as restrictions have been lifted, the recovery of tourism and other businesses has been speedier than people had feared and that people have begun to recover losses more speedily than had been feared. It is essential that we do everything that we can to minimise that damage and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall do so.